An Open letter to Libby Weaver from a Mongol
I had never heard of you until a contact at the United Nations sent me a link to your apology for your misuse of the term “mongolism” in your book “What Am I Supposed to Eat?”. The article was in Mongolian. You were probably unaware that word of your mistake had travelled the globe and reached Mongolia itself.
Throughout 7 November people tagged me online and tweeted links to your article to me. I was both angry and sad reading about what had happened and extremely surprised that in this day and age you had no idea about the background and history of the word “mongolism”. It is not sufficient to describe the word as offensive – although it certainly is when used in reference to those with Down’s syndrome. The issue is more complex than this.
I decided to write to you as one author to another. My book, published in 2014, was written in memory of my late son Billy and was entitled “Mongol”. Like you, I wrote to educate people, but in my case it was through my and my son’s story. Billy would have been eight years old this month. Billy was a Mongol not because he had Down’s syndrome but because he was my son. I come from the country of Mongolia and so I am a Mongol. I grew up singing the songs, reading the books and writing stories of the Mongol culture, told through the Mongol language. This is the perfect use of the word “Mongol” – and we refuse to have its meaning in this context described as “derogatory”. I’m writing to you to encourage you to use the word “Mongol” – but correctly. You might find it useful to listen to this BBC radio documentary which explains in greater detail – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04ps15y .
You have rightly apologised to the Down’s syndrome community. We now request that you consider a similar apology to the international Mongolian community for your lack of consideration of the complexities and sensitivities surrounding the use of words based on the term “Mongol”.
So please use the word Mongol again and loudly – in its original and authentic meaning.